Just a Damned Soldier (1988)

JustADamnedSoldierPosterWhenever one of us lovers of Italian trash cinema talks up Mark Gregory as an icon of that world, non fans are prone to write it off as just so much irony. He’s got a big perm in his most visible roles, can’t stand, pose, or walk convincingly, has gorgeous pouty lips, and is most famous for appearing as a guy named Trash. It’s like we’re just trying to be funny about how important he is by pointing out how ill-suited he was to acting. And that’s true – something like Adam and Eve is going to be pretty challenging to sit through if you don’t go into it with the right attitude.

But once upon a time, Trash apparently really was thought of as something of an asset to a movie and Just Damned Soldier proves it. It’s one of those cheap action movies no one has ever heard of, but the opening credits list both Mark Gregory and co-star Peter Hooten before the title like they were the mid 1980s mercenary movie equivalent of Brad Pitt and George Clooney!

To give you an idea of just the sort of universe you stumbled into when rooting around movies like Just A Damned Soldier, most Mark Gregory fans would not be surprised he was listed before the title (we’re pretty sure that if he didn’t retire to raise wild horses in the hills of his native Italy or whatever that his future movies all would’ve have been variations of Mark Gregory Is Thunder! and Mark Gregory’s Jungle Tank Commando) it’s that that loser Peter Hooten was listed before him!

Don’t get me wrong, Peter Hooten is a legitimate Italian legend in his own right. He’s appeared in The Inglorious Bastards, Umberto Lenzi‘s Wartime, and 2020 Texas Gladiators. He even ended his career on a high note, appearing in Claudio Fragasso’s deliciously bad Night Killer!

But come on, it’s not like there’s anybody out there talking about his sturdy, but not terribly memorable performances in those movies. You could probably stick the guy from Warbus, the guy from Cobra Mission, or David Warbeck in his place and no one would notice.

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And if truth be told, Hooten is really probably best barely remembered from his turn as Dr. Strange in the totally forgotten 1978 TV movie of the same name!

The other thing you’ll quickly realize about how big an attraction Mark Gregory was believed to be was that he was so prominently featured in the credits for what basically amounted to a part that was just a glorified extra!

He barely had any lines, seemed to be about the third or fourth option on the four man strike team, and was hardly on screen at all! But the thing with stars is that they can take any bit part and totally take over the movie! Every moment that Mark has in this movie, he makes the most of!

During the scene where he and his pals are interrogating the bad guy’s girlfriend, it’s Mark that gets her to talk by sticking a knife right inside her mouth and making like he was going to slice her from stem to stern! And when Mark gets himself shot in the knee, his buddy asks if he can make it and Mark responds, “I’ll manage. Thanks.” He even remembers to limp in the next scene before apparently healing completely for the rest of the movie!

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Mark’s involvement with his mercenary pals is the usual story. Hooten gets his old buddies together to steal a bunch of unrefined gold from the bad guy (Teitelbaum) and sells it to Afghan rebels because the Soviets killed his girlfriend during the invasion.

He and Teitelbaum go way back since they both served in Vietnam together, but after the war ended they went in opposite directions and Hooten holds a grudge against Teitelbaum because he turned in Hooten’s dad for being some sort of Nazi.

Teitelbaum goes after Hooten and his crew with the approval of the military leaders in Cambodia and the rest of the movie details the two attacking one another’s crew with varying degrees of success. (Hooten and his guys kill about 10,000 of Teitelbaum’s guys while Teitelbaum manages to dispatch one of Hooten’s guys with a bunch of darts. He does get style points though for sticking the body in a strip club toilet with a toilet paper sash placed on the corpse with the message “we want the gold” written on it.)

Ferdinando Baldi (Ten Zan – Ultimate Mission, Treasure Of The Four Crowns) must have known this would be his final film when he wrote and directed it because other than that fleeting bit of back story related by some secondary characters to each other, he doesn’t waste any more time on stuff that doesn’t involve automatic gunfire, explosions or confrontations at such diverse locations as a carnival and fashion show.

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The movie opens with the theft of the gold and Mark detonates a bunch of plastic explosives that look like Play-doh, causing all sorts of damage to Teitelbaum’s refinery. A chase through the jungle ensues and the movie never lets up with the wanton and mindless killing we demand in our completely disposable obscure foreign action movies. It’s really pretty much just assault weapon porn. Which is of course the best porn!

Baldi literally ends his career with a bang as the movie concludes with one of the guys blowing up an ammo dump for no reason, an explosion which is then replayed and frozen on screen for the closing credits!

This is also the guy who grabs a flamethrower after all the bad guys are disposed of and starts lighting up all the huts in Teitelbaum’s compound! Totally unnecessary of course, but highly appreciated by us action fans who like to see stuff burn!

For his part, Mark Gregory (who, like Peter Hooten, is appearing in his second to last film) reminds all of us why he’s the real star when he utters the movie’s final line following the destruction of the ammo dump, saying “Nice shooting, Cisco!” It’s the total Mark Gregory Experience in microcosm: he doesn’t say much and when he does, it’s usually about three words and frankly, quite pointless! Easily in the top ten of any fan of Mark Gregory’s ten films!

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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